For many people under 35, their most vivid glimpses of Britain's illustrious history have been through the Blackadder chronicles which brightened television screens from 1983 to 1989. Their constantly reborn protagonist, Edmund Blackadder, flounced through a bloody Middle Ages, a campy Elizabethan court, even camper Regency revels, and the rat-infested trenches of the Great War, armed with only his repulsive servant Baldrick, and a fine line in complex insults ("you would bore the leggings off a village idiot"; "he's got a brain the size of a weasel's wedding tackle").
Now you can brush up your Blackadder with a fine collection of the complete scripts, interspersed with useful titbits on medieval torture instruments, the menu in Mrs Miggins' coffee house, and the Prince Regent's laundry list. Bereft of their familiar faces and voices, television comedy scripts often fall flat--and Blackadder without the rubber-faced consonant-spitting of its hero Rowan Atkinson is surely unthinkable. But here the Blackadder oeuvre, penned by Richard Curtis and various collaborators, stands up wonderfully.
Curtis's bizarre, surreal take on English history takes up where 1066 and All That left off, wickedly skewering venerable historical personages, and hilariously literalising the classic clichés of textbook history (marvel again at the Puritan Whiteadders sitting on spikes so they won't enjoy their dinner). Classily produced, and with royalties going to the entertainment charity fund, Comic Relief, this is one TV tie-in well worth getting. --Alan Stewart